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In Memoriam Sylvia Spertus

In Memoriam Sylvia Spertus

Sylvia Spertus with her husband Phil, Spertus Institute, Chicago

Sylvia Spertus 1936-2021

Sylvia Spertus, wife of longtime trustee Phil Spertus (with whom she is pictured here), died on July 31, 2021, at her home in Austin, TX, surrounded by family, following her third bout with cancer.  

In a statement, Spertus Institute President and CEO Dr. Dean P. Bell said, "Sylvia Spertus was a visionary leader who worked tirelessly in partnership with Phil to advance the work of the Spertus Institute, as well as the larger Jewish communities of Chicago and Austin. She was a tremendous force for creativity and community building, a catalyst who led by example, and a champion of our work.”

Spertus Institute Board Chair Dr. Sharon Silverman added that, “Sylvia was an inspiring leader who cared deeply about Jewish education, culture, and community. Her guiding hand and partnership will be missed greatly.”

The faculty, staff, and Trustees offer their condolences to the entire Spertus family, for whom Spertus Institute is named, and the extended Spertus family of students, alumni, and program participants across the globe.

Donations in Sylvia's memory can be made to:
Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership
610 S Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60605

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Obituary for Sylvia Spertus

Sylvia (Liebman) Spertus was born May 21, 1936, in Rock Island, Illinois.

Sylvia earned a bachelor's degree in Geography from the University of Iowa, foreshadowing a lifetime of travel with her husband Philip Spertus, whom she married on February 5, 1961. They raised their four children in the Chicago area, where they were active in the Jewish community, including sponsoring the Philip and Sylvia Spertus Judaica Prize and raising money for the Jewish United Fund and Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership.

In 1989, they made what they thought would be a temporary move to Austin, but stayed because of their wonderful new friends and the great community, which they contributed to by helping create the Shalom Austin Jewish Community Center and Congregation Tiferet Israel.

Sylvia was an excellent cook and hostess, whether entertaining large groups at the home she and her husband built, preparing meals for her husband, or as a volunteer at a soup kitchen. She was an opera enthusiast from back when all she could afford was "nosebleed" seats, going on to assist her husband when he chaired the Austin Opera. When she won a walk-on role in Tosca at a fundraiser, Phil produced a poster with her in costume, proclaiming that she was the "star of the show" and that she "dominated the stage".

A world traveler, Sylvia visited over 60 countries. Her travels took her from Antarctica to the North Pole, including the interior of New Guinea and the Galapagos, in a trip with her children and grandchildren. In her last trip before the pandemic, she set sail from Norway to see the Northern Lights.

In addition to her husband of 60 years, she is survived by her loving children, Michael (Maura), Debby, Ellen (Keith), and Andrea (Ted), and her four grandchildren.